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Tornado survivor: ‘You could hear things being torn apart’

Updated: Mar. 28, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - On March 28, 2020, an EF-3 tornado touched down in Jonesboro, damaging homes and lives.

Those who live and work along Caraway Road were among the first to feel the storm’s wrath.

Jon Smith was working at his uncle’s auto repair shop when the storm forced him to run for shelter.

“My dad is a meteorologist, so I’ve grown up with storms my entire whole life,” Smith said. “I’ve gone storm chasing with him, so I know a lot about storms. I know what to look for.”

But, even he admits there was something different about the March 28 tornado.

Despite years of chasing storms with his dad, he decided to take cover.

Two trees blocked his view as he looked out the back door of German Auto Tech.

Still, Smith could tell something was “very creepy” about the approaching storms.

Suddenly, the winds picked up.

Smith and his dog, Chelsea, ran to the middle of the shop.

“You could hear things being torn apart, glass breaking,” said Smith. “I was almost preparing to get hit with something.”

He and his dog survived the storm. But, the shop took a direct hit.

“As soon as he said the tornado hit the shop, I was kinda in disbelief,” said his uncle, Michael Strieder, who owns German Auto Tech. “We just left there. It was perfect.”

While Smith and Chelsea escaped injury, the shop suffered significant damage.

A billboard toppled onto the roof, exposing everything inside.

A Volkswagen Jetta, a BMW, and a black VW Beetle were tossed from the lot onto the street.

“We definitely lost $100,000 easily,” Strieder said. “When we got there, those cars were out in the middle of Caraway.”

Owner Michael Strieder says when he arrived at his shop, cars were out in the middle of Caraway...
Owner Michael Strieder says when he arrived at his shop, cars were out in the middle of Caraway Road.(KAIT-TV)

Fortunately, Strieder had just purchased a building a few blocks away three months earlier.

“I didn’t know which way to go really. Luckily, I had a good team working for me,” Strieder said. “Everybody showed up. Their friends and family showed up and helped us get moving that night because we could not secure the building.”

Not only did the shop change, so did Smith and the way he views storms.

He said he suffers a “little bit” from anxiety since the storm.

“You know how some people have their anxieties about stuff?” Smith asked. “This is the most anxiety I’ve had about anything.”

He says the tornado siren tests every Thursday give him flashbacks.

As for Chelsea, he says three weeks after the tornado, he had to take her to the vet.

“She had extreme anxiety and nearly died,” Smith said. “She has to take anti-anxiety medicine during thunderstorms now.”

After eight years on Caraway, the family plans to rebuild bigger and better.

As for Smith, he says he is looking forward to the new shop but also getting back to what he knows and appreciates.

“I’m just going to kind of work on falling back in love with storms like I used to,” he said. “Just enjoying them.”

To see other stories featured in KAIT’s special, “The Jonesboro Tornado: One Year Later,” click here.

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